Environmental Defense Fund

To preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. Guided by science and economics, we find practical and lasting solutions to the most serious environmental problems.

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$221M

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84%

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Advocacy

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Financials

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Management

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About Environmental Defense Fund

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was founded over fifty years ago when a team of eight scientists and one lawyer decided to go to court to save birds from harmful side effects of DDT. They won the legal battle, DDT was banned nationwide, and the legacy of the Environmental Defense Fund had begun.

Since its inception, EDF has combined scientific method and research with economics and the law to protect our world. In the 70s, they helped curb air and water pollution through litigation and increased regulations, including the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and a ban on flame retardants in children’s pajamas. In the 80s, they fought against Amazon deforestation and leaded gasoline. Around this time, EDF realized that instead of fighting big corporations, they should team up with them and help them harness their power for good. In 1990, they began their first corporate sponsorship with McDonalds. With fast food came excessive packaging, and together with EDF, McDonalds was able to eliminate over 300 million pounds of packaging in 10 years’ time. While controversial at the time, this type of partnership has since proven to be an effective means of protecting the environment while allowing for economies to flourish.

EDF addresses a range of environmental concerns, including oceans, ecosystems, health, education, and the climate. Their climate and energy program is currently their main focus, receiving the largest portion of program funds.


Why We Chose to Feature This Organization

We chose the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) because they recognize the need for working with corporations in order to create social change. Whether you like it or not, corporations play a huge role in our society, especially in regard to policy creation. Corporations are also responsible for a large portion of environmental degradation and use of precious resources. It’s hard to change the habits of the 37.8 million annual visitors to Starbucks and get them to use reusable mugs or make a coffee at home. It’s much easier to convince a handful of executives that they can reduce waste while saving money. Starbucks is just one of the successful corporate partnerships the Environmental Defense Fund has participated in within the last 30 years. From shipping companies to fast food restaurants, the Environmental Defense Fund has shown that sustainable practices don’t have to come at a cost – in fact, they usually result in vast savings. We utilize the products of these corporations every day. Starting at the top is a terrific way to enact change quickly, which the EDF has done over and over again.

Private Sector Collaboration

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Financials

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Management

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No environmental NGO has been as successful at private sector collaboration as EDF. Over the years, they have partnered with numerous Fortune 500 companies, including Walmart, McDonald's, Starbucks, Caterpillar, UPS, and FedEx. EDF does not accept funds from these organizations, giving them the opportunity to provide unbiased assessments, plans, and help in implementing new policies. There is a widespread misconception that environmental protection must come at the price of doing business. EDF shows that you can be environmentally conscious and save money with the following partnerships:

McDonalds

In their first corporate sponsorship nearly 30 years ago, EDF partnered with McDonald’s to reduce disposable food waste generated from takeout packaging. EDF analyzed their operations from the top down: from their suppliers, distribution centers, and restaurants to the packaging that held their burgers. They discovered that nearly 70% of McDonald’s waste was created in their food prep and supply systems. As a result of this partnership and analysis, McDonald’s switched from plastic clamshell boxes to paper-based wraps, leading to a 70-90% reduction in the packaging volume. They began using unbleached paper bags and coffee filters, reduced their paper napkin use, and started using post-consumer recycled paper products. All of these efforts led to a reduction of over 300M pounds of packaging and a 30% decrease in waste, while saving the company an estimated $6M in costs. EDF is currently working with McDonald’s again, this time helping them to demand that their suppliers who produce soy, beef, and timber leave forests intact.

Walmart

In 2005, Walmart set out to achieve three very ambitious goals: 1. to be powered by 100% renewable energy, 2. to create zero waste, and 3. to sell products that sustain the world’s resources and environment. Given the sheer size of Walmart’s operations ($482B in sales in the US, stores in 28 countries, and the world’s largest employer), EDF was eager to partner with Walmart and help them meet their goals, knowing that if the world’s largest employer could implement sustainable changes, others would soon follow suit.  

The work began at the supply chain level, with the goal of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 20 million metric tons (MMT) by the end of 2015. They brought EDF scientists, economists, and environmental consultants together with Walmart department leaders, distributors, buyers, and suppliers. Together, they created the “Sustainability Index”, an instrument used to assess a product’s environmental impact. This index is now used by more than 1700 companies and covers over 110 product categories. The index’s proliferation with outside merchants allowed for Walmart to analyze large swaths of their supply chain, which in turn led to suppliers assessing and adjusting their products to meet the index’s requirements.

Further analysis pointed to five categories in which they could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions: lowering the use of fertilizers on their suppliers’ farms, selling energy-efficient products, improving energy efficiency in their Chinese factories, improving recycling infrastructure, and labelling food properly so that less waste is generated. EDF helped Walmart by providing strategic advice and scientific reasoning in their policies and providing expertise to the buyers and suppliers who had to make adjustments to their processes in order to meet new requirements.

Another supply chain improvement opportunity came when EDF and Walmart developed metrics for assessing the chemical ingredients of household cleaners and personal-care products. They discovered that almost 40% of over 100,000 products screened contained chemicals of concern. This discovery lead to the creation of a chemicals policy banning these chemicals, which in turn led to major manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive phasing out the chemicals in question.

After 10 years of EDF and Walmart collaboration, Walmart made significant progress towards their original goals. Renewable energy use was at 26% (goal 100%), they reduced waste by 82.4% in the US and 68% abroad (goal: zero waste), and reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 28MMT, far surpassing their goal of a 20 MMT reduction. In 2017, Walmart and EDF partnered once again for Project Gigatron – an ambitious project of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by one billion tons via improved agriculture, product design and use, transportation, and reducing food waste and supplier deforestation.

Starbucks

In the early 1990s, Starbucks had 140 stores. Today they have over 25,000. Back in the 90s, they were serving hot coffees in two disposable paper cups made of 100% bleached virgin paper so that customers hands weren’t burned. Twice the amount of waste was being created for an already staggering number of customers. Starbucks knew this was a problem, so in 1997 they teamed up with EDF and The Pew Charitable Trusts to decrease their waste and reduce the environmental impact of their disposable cups.

In addition to double-cupping their coffees, many of the stores didn’t own ceramic or glass cups for customers interested in drinking their coffee at the store. EDF helped implement a plan to increase the use of reusable cups for use in the stores. Within two years, 20% of Starbucks stores had begun consistently using reusable cups, and company policy required that all stores provided this option to the customers. This greatly reduced waste, and saved Starbucks a potential $1M per year (based on their size in 1999).

In order to further reduce waste, the double-cupping problem needed to be solved. In 1997, after much analysis and trial and error, Starbucks introduced a paper sleeve constructed out of 60% post-consumer recycled fiber to use as an insulating layer on disposable cups, removing the need to use two cups per drink.

While the EDF and Starbucks partnership took place 20 years ago, it is still worth discussing, as it set Starbucks on the sustainability focused path that they are on today. Starbucks has continued to improve their cup design, and today their cups can be accepted for recycling – so long as the infrastructure to recycle it is there. That’s why Starbucks is once again partnering with nonprofits, policy makers, and industry associations to improve recycling infrastructure so that their disposable cups can be recycled instead of thrown away.

EDF Climate Corps – Training the Future Leaders of Sustainability at Fortune 500 Companies

EDF Climate Corps is a program that trains grad students from top universities who are studying business and engineering how to lead companies in a sustainable yet economical way. They are armed with the latest technologies and resources in order to aid companies in supply chain sustainability, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas commitments. Over 400 companies have participated in the program and have saved a combined $1.5B in energy costs and reduced 1.9 MMT of carbon dioxide annually. As far as the alumni of the program, 60% are currently working in the sustainability sector, and 33% currently hold at least a managerial position.

One example of this program is Adidas. In 2014, Adidas brought on an EDF Climate Corp fellow named Eric to help them explore energy efficiency improvement opportunities within their distribution facilities, which totaled approximately 15 million square feet. More specifically, they hoped to uncover possible improvements in existing distribution centers, as well as setting new building guidelines for future distribution centers. Eric gave recommendations for current energy efficiency improvements in regard to the motors of the equipment, the belts & rollers, runtime of the machines, sensors, and the controls. For new distribution centers, he recommended guidelines for selecting the most efficient systems and equipment and appointing an energy manager to oversee operations, and monitor metrics such as energy cost per item shipped and monthly logs of motor running times vs volumes.

Management

Environmental Defense Fund

Fred Krupp

President

Experience and Education
  • Founder of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment
  • Law Degree from University of Michigan Law School
  • Undergraduate degree from Yale University
Compensation
$651,000

Environmental Defense Fund

Eric Pooley

Senior Vice President for Strategy and Communications

Experience and Education
  • Editor of Time Europe
  • Author of The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth
  • Brown University
Compensation
$445,000

Environmental Defense Fund

Diane Regas

Executive Director

Experience and Education
  • Senior Policy Analyst
  • Director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds at the EPA
  • University of California, Berkeley
Compensation
$371,000

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